The Knesset approved on Monday night in first reading a bill repealing sections of the 2005 Disengagement Law that prevent Israelis from entering or living in parts of northern Samaria.
The 2005 Gaza disengagement led to the destruction and evacuation of the Israeli communities of Sa-Nur, Homesh, Ganim and Kadim in northern Samaria, as well as 21 communities in Gaza.
The bill, sponsored by Likud Knesset member Yuli Edelstein, seeks to restore freedom of movement to Israelis in the four Samaria communities. It passed by 40-17.
“There is no longer any justification to prevent Israelis from entering and staying in the evacuated territory in northern Samaria, and therefore it is proposed to state that these sections [of the disengagement law] will no longer apply to the evacuated territory,” reads the introductory text to the bill.
Knesset member Yuli Edelstein and National Missions Minister Orit Strook sponsored the measure at the request of Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan, who was himself among those expelled from the Samaria communities.
The proposed legislation will now return to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to be prepared for the second and third readings required to pass into law, including a discussion on whether to change the bill’s name to reflect that it does not apply to Hamas-ruled Gaza.
All Jews were forcibly removed from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
“This is the start of … correcting a historical injustice. I expect the law to be completely repealed. This is a struggle we have been waging for 18 years and we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dagan last month as the bill was making its way through Knesset committees.
“The deportees of [northern Samaria]—heroes who are standing with us as the tip of the spear in this struggle—will yet see recompense for their actions. The residents of the communities of Ganim, Kadim, Homesh and Sa-Nur will return within their borders,” he added, referencing Jeremiah 31:15-16.
A game of cat and mouse has taken place between the IDF and former residents and supporters since the disengagement, particularly at Homesh, where a yeshiva has operated out of caravans and tents. Troops have dismantled the yeshiva several times over the years.
The coalition agreement between Likud and the Religious Zionism Party, led by Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich, requires the government to reverse parts of the disengagement and allow for the Homesh Yeshiva to remain as a first step towards rebuilding the four communities.
(An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the bill passed its first Knesset reading in February.)